Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The new girl guide promise & the origins of liberalism

The Girl Guides in the UK have changed their promise. No longer will the girl guides pledge to "love my God" but instead they will promise "to be true to myself and develop my beliefs."

This got me to thinking about the way one branch of liberalism may have developed over time. There is a certain logic to the change to the Girl Guide promise. There are now more people without religious belief in the UK. Therefore, the promise to "love my God" might have seemed to exclude these people. The new pledge "to be true to myself and develop my beliefs" would still allow Christians to follow Christianity but it would include atheists as well.

At the surface level, therefore, the pledge seems to be neutral and to allow for a variety of beliefs. It doesn't immediately seem to do harm.

But it does do harm. If we try to incorporate every possible belief or lifestyle by retreating to a position of being "true to myself and developing my beliefs" then we are establishing as the default public position a relativism and an individualism.

We are establishing relativism because the pledge to be "true to myself and develop my beliefs" sends the message that something is true only relative to myself and my own subjective beliefs. And we are retreating to an individualism in the sense that we are no longer recognising a shared belief within a community, but only an individual one.

But it is difficult for a community to operate without some sort of shared value system and so what is then left to liberalism is to make the commitment to being inclusive the focus of a communal, and publicly enforced, morality.

Furthermore, what is clearly lost within this kind of liberal value system is a commitment to shared objective goods and truths within a community. How might people feel compensated for this loss? By focusing on the freedom to make up our own individual goods. So a certain concept of freedom will then be emphasised.

It is said by some that liberalism developed from the attempt to deal with religious diversity in the wake of the Reformation and the various wars of religion. It is possible that the starting point was the well-intentioned one that I have described, but that the logic of the falsely "neutral" position it involved then went on to do great damage to Western societies.

So how then should a diversity of opinion or belief be dealt with in society? If we learn our lesson we would have to say that the relativism and individualism of the "neutrality" position should be the least favoured option. Other options:

i) The atheists are allowed to simply opt out of reciting that part of the pledge.
ii) That part of the promise is dropped and the focus is on other goods that are shared by theists and atheists alike.
iii) A separate group of guides is set up for those parents who wish to avoid the promise to God.

These are only suggestions, but I make them to show that it's not necessary to deal with a diversity of belief by turning to a principle that is perhaps intended to be neutral, but which in reality is anything but neutral and which instead strongly preferences a view of the world which is relativistic and individualistic and which leads ultimately to the intolerant enforcement of tolerance and to a dissolving view of freedom based on the idea of the self-defining individual.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Swedish patriot on love of country

Stefan Torssell is a Swede who has written a defence of patriotic love. I'm a little reliant on Google translate in what follows (and it's an abridged version of his column), but the gist of his argument is clear enough.
It is he who loves who is happy...

And then comes the question: can someone love their country? I believe they can and actually remember the moment when my love grew...I went on the folk high school excursion. We lay in the grass and talked.

All around me were red cottages along a country road. Large arable fields spread out. Sweden was a beautiful country with good values...The language, culture and traditions created a national community that made us develop into a good society.

Just as insights about oneself are a prerequisite for being able to love another human being, a love of country presupposes that you know your country's places, fauna, traditions and culture. I grew up in my language, in my country, in my nature and our traditions.

It is essential for me to be able to love my country. But it is not enough. Love of Sweden contains love in two ways: it is a feeling, and it is an active choice.

It may seem pathetic to write about the love of a country. Some may perceive it as pompous in our time when the denial of their own national culture has become a competition. My experience of Sweden recalls the love of a person. They want to stay in that person's proximity, giving up a part of himself and is sympathetically tuned to that person.

There are those who do not love Sweden. One member of the cultural Left who often persecutes the Sweden Democrats (the patriotic party) is Martin Aagard. I heard him on the radio a while ago. He explained that he did not feel anything for his native Sweden.

I think the idea is not foreign to the cultural left that one can hate their own nation, or at least feel indifference. From that state can be born a destructiveness. It is not just the Left that can have this negativity to their own country. Even right circles I believe can make such choices.

Increasingly now I hear people express themselves negatively about Sweden, not only Mona Sahlin and Reinfeldt. Sweden has no culture. Swedish culture is borrowing from other more developed cultures. Swedish culture is barbarism.

The Swedish Democrats expressing kindness to Sweden is described as xenophobic. Many are forced to be cautious. They try to adapt to the zeitgeist to malign everything that is Swedish. They are to be regretted.

I've written about this before in terms of love, but it bears repeating. Faithfulness and truth are necessary in a relationship. The worst thing we can do to ourselves is to lie to someone we care about. Anyone who wants to lose a friend or a loved one should lie immediately to the man. The lie starts a mental process of decomposition and soon the friendship or love lost.

The powerful want EU countries to grow together into a federation with a single currency and a uniform law of free movement of capital. Multiculturalism has a purpose. It breaks down a country's uniqueness and national institutions.

That the Sweden Democrats are disliked by people with power and influence, I interpret as a sign that they are lying to us and about us. 

But there is another question. Can even the love of a country end? I think so.

The Sweden I discovered long ago is no more. Fragmentation in the nation is extensive. Much happens that is detestable. I have a strong feeling that many want to destroy Sweden in order to get something else.

My country feels strange when terrorists with Swedish citizenship are captured in an Arab country or when Swedes who committed a gang rape are reported to have spoken an incomprehensible language. I do not regard them as Swedes and I doubt very strongly that they do themselves.

Obviously, it is not the negative consequences of multiculturalism the establishment want. They want Sweden to become something else. What is happening now they consider a passing phase. Because they just want to discuss what is good with multiculturalism and only with those who think alike. I and the majority of the population have never been asked.

They are ruining Sweden. The whole project seems to now move toward a tragedy. We'll see which side wins. We who are sympathetic to Sweden or those who want to impose multiculturalism?

The good news from Sweden is that the Sweden Democrats are strong enough to have won 20 seats in the parliament. Below is a photo of the leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, at a community event in his hometown.

I particularly liked Torssell's analogy between the love of a person and the love of a country:
My experience of Sweden recalls the love of a person. They want to stay in that person's proximity, giving up a part of himself and is sympathetically tuned to that person.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Australian election write on campaign

For Australian readers:

There is a group which is calling on people to write a reduce immigration message on their ballot papers in the forthcoming elections.

Whilst I don't think this is sufficient to make big changes, it could at least send a message to the party officials who scrutinise the ballot papers.

The website of the group is here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why aren't the Germans having children?

There has been a bit of discussion on the web about Germany's declining population. According to one study, 23% of German men believe that the ideal number of children to have is zero.

So what's gone wrong? I think the big picture looks something like this. The liberal culture we live in tells us that we should focus on those areas of life that we can self-determine as individuals. But what kinds of things can we choose for ourselves on a purely personal basis? Well, we can choose a career; we can choose travel destinations; and we have various consumer, lifestyle and entertainment choices.

Of all these options career is the most serious commitment that is left to us and so liberals tend to treat a professional career as the telos  of life (the purpose of life we develop toward). This aim is strengthened by the fact that liberal opinion makers tend to be ambitious people who have relatively creative and high status careers, within academia, the media and politics.

And so elite liberal opinion tells us that career comes first rather than family. Young Germans have picked up on this message: according to one survey 81 per cent of young Germans believe that their society values professional success over family.

Like elsewhere this leads to 20-something men and women putting most of their effort into education and career, to the point that a commitment to family can seem like one burden too many. 79 per cent of childless Germans believe that "daily life brings enough stress without children."

So what can then be done to lift fertility rates? The liberal solution is to accept that professional life comes first and will take most of the time and energy of young people. Therefore, family life has to be made to fit in with a busy corporate lifestyle, largely through investment in formal childcare, paid maternity leave and so on.

There are even conservatives now who are accepting that this is the way to go for family life. The Australian Liberal Party, our right-wing party, has committed itself to this liberal model of the new family.

But there are problems with doing this. First, there is not much evidence that the massive investments in childcare and paid maternity leave actually raise fertility rates significantly. In Germany the fertility rate is 1.4; in countries like Sweden and France which have pioneered the childcare and paid maternity leave policies it is just a little higher at 1.7 (for native Frenchwomen it is 1.7). That's still a long way below replacement fertility levels.

And that's hardly surprising. If you accept a culture in which individual fulfilment via career is the leading principle, then why would people choose to have large families? Most people will choose to have just one or two children and some will choose to be "childfree". That makes it very difficult to get to a replacement population level.

In the newer model of family life there is supposed to be a unisex model of parenting, one that is focused not on gendered roles but on an equal division of labour in meeting the practical burdens of looking after children. This too undercuts a reason for committing to family life, as it disconnects our identity as men and women from distinctly important roles within the family as fathers and mothers. It makes parenthood a matter of practical work rather than an expression and a fulfilment of self and identity.

So what's the alternative? I believe that we have to continue to insist that family comes first. In other words, our role as fathers and mothers is a more significant one than our particular work role. Admittedly that won't be an easy sell to those young women who are geared up to career achievement. We may not do as well amongst that particular demographic. However, in my experience many women do eventually become more open to scaling back career commitments once they've had a lengthy experience of the sacrifices demanded at work and once they've married and had children. So the women we lose at age 22 we might well win back by age 35.

Second, it's unreasonable to put tremendous education and work demands on women in their 20s and still expect them to take on an even greater workload by having children. In most cases, the best answer is to get young men into good jobs and to make affordable housing available, so that young men can get back to performing one of the basic tasks of manhood, which is to create a space for their wives to have children. That should continue to be the basic model within a traditionalist culture.

Most women will not ever have high status and creative careers and will most likely readily accept such a model. And there can be flexibility for those women who do want a role outside of the home. Could we not offer such women, to take just one example, some experience on a woman's magazine, then a period of time having children, then a return part-time to the creative role at the magazine?

As for men, because we believe in the importance of the fatherhood role we should be committed to improving the work/life balance for men, so that they have the opportunity to be not only providers but also to fulfil the important mentoring work that fathers should ideally perform within a family.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A dangerous and false narrative

The murder of Christopher Lane in the small American town of Duncan has been big news in Australia.

Christopher Lane was a local boy from Melbourne who some of my students had met. He was gunned down by three bored teenagers while he was out jogging. The boy accused of pulling the trigger is reported to have danced happily while being charged with his murder.

There is a narrative amongst left-liberals in which white people enact racial violence against people of colour as part of a systemic racism. This narrative means that cases like Trayvon Martin get tremendous publicity. Trayvon Martin was a young black man who was challenged by a part white, part Hispanic neighbourhood watch volunteer called George Zimmerman. What happened next is disputed but Zimmerman claims that he was attacked by Martin and when his head was being banged against the pavement he shot Martin in self-defence. Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Martin.

For those who follow the "whites as enactors of racial violence" narrative, this was seen as another case in which whites were able to perpetrate violence against black Americans with the connivance of a racist system. Even President Obama joined in by choosing to identify with Martin with the words: "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon."

But the narrative is both wrong and dangerous. It is wrong because most violence against young black men is committed by other young black men and because there is a much higher incidence of black against white violence than the other way round.

The narrative is dangerous because it encourages a resentment against whites by other races which can then lead to crimes against white people.

It is possible that the shooting of Christopher Lane was motivated in part by racial resentment stoked by the narrative. The teenage boy accused of pulling the trigger, James Edwards, is African American. He sent the following tweets earlier this year:
A couple of Tweets also suggest that Edwards wasn’t fond of white people.

On April 29, he tweeted, “90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM.”

On July 15, days after the George Zimmerman verdict, Edwards tweeted “Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!:) #ayeeee.”

“Woods” is a derogatory term for white people.

He claims to have knocked out 5 white people in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict. Even if that is not true, it shows the influence of the narrative in his mind and how it was used to justify violence against whites.

There is a good article by James McWhorter, who is himself African American, regarding this issue. It's a thoughtful and well-balanced article on the issue of black crime in America.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The war to make sex distinctions not matter rolls on

Laura Wood has found an interesting story about an American woman, Karla Erickson.

Karla Erickson is very keen to push forward with the liberal aim of making sex distinctions not matter. She admits that women have a biological connection to babies that men do not, first by carrying the baby and then by breastfeeding. She even writes about how special this connection is. Nonetheless, she doesn't think it right that mothers should have such a connection because it sets up an "inequality" (by which she means a difference) in the position of men and women in raising children. She therefore concludes that her role should be to "disrupt" the special connection that exists between mothers and babies and that part of the way she can do this is to refuse to breastfeed any future children.

Here she is on the special bond between mother and child:
For birth moms, we have this physically grounded centrality to the baby-making process that carries through birth. If we breastfeed we deepen rather than disrupt that primacy.

In my case, I was pregnant and carried our son to term. As a result, I was deeply connected to that little guy before he ever came into the world. His heartbeat and mine were connected, as were our digestion and sleep patterns.

...My little son already knew my smell, my voice, and my heartbeat. It was perhaps the moment when my gender was the most salient it has ever been in my marriage: these things that my husband literally could not do, I had done.

And then I breastfed.

Every time I got to breast feed him I was holding my son, singing, whispering, touching, and loving on my sweet little boy.

If I had not breastfed I would have missed all those beautiful quiet times with my son...I had never known what it was like to be that close to another human.

Despite all of this, she concludes with the idea that women shouldn't breastfeed, precisely because it attaches a baby more closely to the mother than to the father - and this then produces "social differences" between men and women:
If we really want to address and redress the ongoing inequalities around the work of making life — the work of raising the next generation — then we have to look at breastfeeding. It’s one thing our bodies do that reinforces the social differences between men and women, moms and dads, and boys and girls.

...Over the years, my husband and I will work to unwind this preliminary advantage, but we could have avoided solidifying it if we had decided to use formula, or to pump and bottle feed our son.

So in a pro-breastfeeding era, I say, “I’m out.” Not because I don’t benefit everyday from that “special connection” to my son, but because I do.

...Sometimes we have to do a runaround our bodies to ensure equity. Sometimes we have to do some social engineering to help dislodge our social aspirations from the dictates of our glands and gonads.

Sometimes, to make sure that the next generation has more wiggle room around the gendered division of labor, we have to tuck away those breasts and reach for a bottle instead.

Why do liberals want to make sex distinctions not matter? Because their aim is to maximise individual autonomy. This means that our life is supposed to be self-determining, which then means that predetermined qualities like our sex aren't supposed to matter.

You might think that Karla Erickson is a crazy lady for thinking the way she does, but she is following through with a philosophy that is widely accepted in society. There are young people today being brought up with the idea that parenting should be strictly unisex and that it is unjust for a mother to spend more time with her child than the father does. Karla Erickson is just pushing that unisex ideal a little further along and with a little more honesty. She admits that there are reasons grounded in biology for a close relationship between mother and child, and that this relationship can be a fulfilling one for a woman, but she wants us to overcome this natural connection in the name of a social ideal.

That's what happens when you adopt the wrong principles for deciding social ideals.

The good side to this for traditionalists is that liberalism is advancing so radically along the lines of its principles that it must inevitably leave behind a good many people. Liberals like Karla Erickson want to suppress important aspects of human nature. That puts us in a good position to defend these positive aspects of human nature and to rally those whose strength of instinct puts them in opposition to a liberal culture.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Eltham Trads meeting

The next meeting of the Eltham Traditionalists is taking place next Wednesday evening. I'd like to invite Melbourne readers, at least those within car driving distance of Eltham, to the event.

I sometimes get asked at the site about strategy and I believe networking is an important next step. It makes a big difference if you've had the chance to meet people as part of a group and gotten to know them. It creates a much more cohesive movement than one that is limited to the internet alone.

Eltham Traditionalists is still at a modest stage of development but we're getting there. We've had some successful dinners and formed some connections between a group of regulars.

New attendees are very welcome. If you'd like more information about the group you can visit the Eltham Traditionalists site here. You'll find my email address there - if you're interesting in coming along, just contact me and I'll send you the details.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Brandis 4

I've been looking at an attempt to justify right-liberalism by an Australian politician, George Brandis (1984).

In my very first post I criticised the way that Brandis described the individual:
To the liberal, the most fundamental characteristic of any society is that it is a coming together of a number of individual persons, each of whom has a unique identity, unique needs and aspirations...

This might seem harmless, but there is a great danger in the belief that we have only unique identities and aspirations. As I wrote in the first post,
if you take the liberal view that there are only uniquely individual identities and aspirations, then you end up with the liberal idea of society as being a whole lot of atomised individuals each pursuing ends that can only possibly be known to them.

Brandis himself spells this out in the next part of his essay, when he discusses justice and freedom:
the highest value in a just society is the equal right of every individual to select and pursue his own ends, and to shape his life according to his own conception of what is the best life for him.

If a liberal society is based upon the self-determining individual, it is axiomatic that individuals must have the freedom both to determine their own ends and to pursue them...

It is crucial to appreciate that the liberal believes in freedom because he believes in individual rights, not vice versa. Freedom is one value among several which flow from the liberal's basic commitment to the equal right of all individuals to determine and pursue their ends in accordance with their own conception of the good. Freedom itself is not an absolute value, and the liberal is prepared to qualify it not only to the extent that this is necessary to ensure an equal measure of freedom for others, but also in cases where the limitation of freedom serves liberal values other than freedom, such as equality of opportunity.

You can see the way that assumptions flow into each other here. First, there is the claim that there are only uniquely individual identities and aspirations. If that is true, then there is nothing connecting individuals except a shared commitment to allow each other to pursue their own uniquely individual ends and to pursue their own concept of the good. This aim then comes to define what is meant by freedom, rights, equality and justice.

You end up with an ideal of an autonomous individual with various rights to self-determination, a commitment to the equal freedom of others, and to an equality of opportunity.

Note the relativism at the heart of the moral life here. For Brandis there is only a self-defined good, a subjective concept of the good that applies to me and my life alone.

Brandis gets things wrong at the very start of his argument. Our identities and aspirations cannot simply be described as unique. Nor are they based simply on subjective preference. For instance, our communal identity is often shared and is based on a real, inherited ethnic tradition. If we are bound together within this tradition, then we have a shared identity and common aims. Our freedom is not then just a freedom to self-define, but to express an identity that we have inherited and that we hold in common with others. What we require is not just an individual right, but a right to exist within a particular community.

The liberal philosophy, as set out by Brandis, is a notably pessimistic and demoralising one. It suggests that there are no goods that can be recognised as valuable within a community and which become a standard within the life of that community. There cannot be ideals of masculinity or femininity, or shared moral standards, or an ideal of family life, or notions of the good that are likely to be acknowledged by most individuals within a community, such as a connectedness to nature or to a family lineage, or to one's own heritage.

And there is no possibility of thinking, within the liberal philosophy, that there is an objective value to any of this, i.e. that the ideals that exist within a community have an inherent quality of goodness that our moral sense is able to discern. Instead, there is just a relative concept of the good, i.e. that I self-determine what is good for me, it is a good because I define it to be so, but it is a good for me alone. The concept of the good is radically squeezed down in the liberal philosophy as set out by Brandis.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Neither party supports the traditional family

There's an election campaign on in Australia. It's difficult to get too excited about it as both parties have similar policies.

The leader of the more right-wing of the two parties, the Liberal Party, is Tony Abbott. His family policy is to tax 3000 large companies to raise $6.5 billion in order to fund an exceptionally generous paid maternity scheme. A woman on $150,000 per annum will get 6 months on full pay (i.e. $75,000) plus 2 per cent superannuation.

It's another step along the way to undermining the male provider role. Once upon a time the role of the husband was important in supporting his wife financially during her pregnancy and whilst she stayed at home to look after her children.

In the new system a woman will provide for herself through her career and then be supported by the state during the period of time she is allotted to stay with her infant child.

Abbott has given up on the model of the male provider family:
'It proves that the Coalition gets it when it comes to the reality of the contemporary woman and contemporary families.

'The fact is very few families these days can survive on a single income ... So if we are serious about allowing women to have kids and a career we've got to have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme.'

The political elite, whether of the left or right, have accepted the idea that what matters in life is a professional career. Therefore it is a matter of justice for them that a woman's life centre on her career and be structured around her career rather than on and around family. Similarly equality means for them the idea that women be as little obstructed in career and earnings as men. The desired outcome is that sex distinctions between men and women in these public roles be made not to matter.

For traditionalists there is a different logic at play. For us it is important that we be able to fulfil our distinct natures as men and women. For most men, career is not in itself the fulfilling thing in life - it is mundane work that often leaves you tired and stressed by the end of the week. If there is a higher meaning to it, it is that it opens up a protected space for our wives to raise our children and to create a home. It is this higher meaning to male work that current social trends, supported by both parties, are undermining.

I do understand that high property prices have made it difficult for many people to survive on a single wage. I understand too that there are women who have a strong wish to pursue a career. And I certainly understand that families are not going to turn down such a financial windfall as the one being offered by Tony Abbott.

But if we are aiming to establish a trad community in the future, we have to make an effort to defend the male provider role. That doesn't by any means exclude women from paid work. There are a lot of ways to be flexible when it comes to this. But the minimum standard ought to be that in the average home the husband is the main breadwinner over the course of the marriage and that his efforts are significant in allowing his wife to have the opportunity to have children and to create a home for her family.

By the way, I don't mean for posts like this to demoralise younger men from seeking work. My advice is to stay the course. Most women with kids only want to work part-time at most, so you are still likely to end up as the main breadwinner. And if the government ever attempts to equalise the part-time earnings of women with the full-time earnings of men then it's time for all hell to break loose.

So we're just too powerful?

Ruby Hamad is a writer from Sydney. In an online column earlier this year, she looked at the issue of whites becoming minorities in countries like the UK, the US and Australia.

Her response to this helps to confirm a point I've made previously. It is difficult for left-liberals to take seriously the issue of whites facing decline, because according to their world view whites are a powerful, privileged group. How can she sympathise with the plight of whites when she views us this way?

She writes:
Before a mass panic ensues, it should be kept in mind that white privilege is so institutionalised, it would take more than a dip in numbers to overturn it. That, however, doesn't do much to stem the tide of the fear at being outnumbered.

There is a triumph of ideology over reality here. In her ideology, whites are uniquely bad in having created a system to gain an unearned privilege over other groups. Whites, in other words, have a systemic advantage over everyone else.

The whole system is set up for us, she thinks, so it doesn't matter if we are reduced to minorities, as we will remain the powerful, privileged group in society.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Brandis 3

I've been looking at an essay on liberal values by the Australian right-liberal George Brandis. Here's the next section:
Secondly, conservatism and socialism share a theory of social change which owes much to the dogma of historical determinism. Both believe that the forces which shape a society's development - whether those forces are understood according to the conservative's metaphor of society as an organism with its own spontaneous causes of growth and change, or the socialist's more formal theory of dialectical materialism - are impersonal and irresistible. Neither gives any place to human reason as a reconstructive social force. For both, the past determines the present and therefore limits the future. The socialist feels that he is the prisoner of the past; the conservative would like to think that he still lives there.

Liberalism, by contrast, simply rejects historical determinism. It asserts that individuals, acting rationally and with co-operative goodwill can consciously shape the future of their societies so as to avoid the errors of the past and correct the injustices of the present. The reconstructive spirit of liberalism was captured well by Robert Kennedy when he proclaimed that it was 'the shaping impulse' of a liberal society that 'neither fate, nor nature, nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, will determine our destiny'.

What does this tell us about Brandis? It suggests to me that Brandis does not feel a positive connection to the past. What matters for him is the idea of individuals rationally following a principle in order to create a just future. In this sense, the individual can only be acting against the past. The past is a kind of foil against which the rational individual sets himself.

I do think that Brandis has accurately described a liberal mindset in all this. Liberals have set themselves to create a new order based on the rational unfolding of a principle that aims at justice.

But there are major problems in taking this approach. First, a society is not built on the basis of a single, clearly enunciated principle. Any society faces the difficult task of coming to a sense of an "order of being" - an order which brings together the natural, the social and the spiritual aspects of life. There is no single principle which can express all of these things. What (ideally) happens instead is that a society gives rise over time to a culture which represents the best efforts of that society to reach a harmonious order of being.

Things are likely to go wrong if you seek to reorder society along the lines of a single principle aiming at justice. First, there is no such single "rational" principle. Second, the negative effect of adopting a false principle, as liberals have done, is radically heightened. Third, once you adopt such a principle there is no way to provide limits to its effects, as it becomes the sole organising principle of a society. The principle is likely to run to much more radical extremes over time than its originators ever intended.

Does this mean that Brandis is right when he claims that traditionalist conservatives do not give "any place to human reason as a reconstructive social force"? It's true that we reject the idea of radically breaking with the past in order to reconstitute society on the basis of an ideological principle. But it's not true that a culture, as an expression of an attempt to create an order of being, is frozen in time. Each generation tries to add to it, to improve and refine it, and this is partly an act of human reason (and conscience and creativity). Traditionalists do have a sense of justice and the good, and we do expect society to aim to measure up to this, but not as a singular, rationalistic principle that serves as its own starting point. We aim to carry forward a culture and a tradition and we look instinctively to the best of what our forefathers achieved to inspire us in reaching toward the good.

One final point. Brandis approvingly quotes Robert Kennedy speaking about "the shaping impulse" of liberalism, an impulse which overrides not only history but also nature. A traditionalist would never set reason against nature in a simplistic way. It's not that nature is sacrosanct. Anyone who has had children knows that they don't come ready civilised. Ruder aspects of their nature do have to be overcome. Even so, principle has to have regard for our created nature. You can't formulate principles about the way that human life is to proceed abstractly and without consideration for what humans are, for both better and worse, in their given natures.

Rebecca Holman's waiting game

Rebecca Holman
Rebecca Holman is one of those women who did not permit herself to marry before reaching the magical age of 30:
Even at the tender age of 18...I was full of adolescent disdain for anyone who wanted to marry young. I imagined I’d spend my 20s having a string of dramatic, ill-advised love affairs and generally gallivanting, before settling down about three days after my 30th birthday. And living Happily Ever After.

Being oriented to "dramatic, ill-advised love affairs" changed the kind of men she selected. She ruled out decent men on trivial grounds:
The men I rejected when I was 26 because they were ‘too nice,’ ‘wore underpants rather than boxers’ or ‘had a really prominent Adam’s apple’

But on reaching 30 she encountered a problem. She now wanted a decent kind of guy to settle down with. But the top tier of these men were either already taken or were determined to date women under the age of 30. It is Rebecca Holman's experience that the top tier men were,
getting married to women much more proactive than me...These are the women who...had their eye on the prize. And fair play to them – they clearly possess the sort of vision, foresight and mad organizational skills that I’m incapable of.

Anyway – these women, who are arguably better at life than I am, are now marrying the top tier of men. I don’t mean the richest, or the most handsome. I mean the funny, nice, clever ones, with no family history of substance abuse and the ability to love another human being without expecting their soul in return.

I've written about this before. It's not sensible for women to opt out until they reach 30 and expect to have the same number of family oriented men waiting for them. The more proactive women will get first go.

So what is Rebecca Holman now to do? She could, of course, accept a second tier man. But this she refuses to do. So she claims to have a solution (how serious she is about this I'm not sure) which is to wait for some of the first tier men to divorce.

I doubt if this strategy will appeal to too many women. Better to learn from Rebecca Holman's mistakes and to give priority to something that is so important for our happiness, namely a good marriage and the opportunity to have a family.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Brandis 2

I've been looking at a statement on liberal belief by George Brandis (1984). Here is the next part of his essay:
This view of a society of free and autonomous individuals distinguishes in two essential respects Liberal social theory from the approaches of its most important contemporary rivals, conservatism and socialism. Firstly, conservatism and socialism have in common the belief that the basic units, the 'building blocks', of human society are structures much vaster than the individual.

The conservative sees society as a naturally ordered, harmonious hierarchy; while in the eyes of the socialist, the basic structures of society are irreconcilably hostile classes...Both agree that individual persons are but incidents of larger entities. Although liberal social theory does not deny the existence or significance of such larger categories, it insists upon the priority of the individual. It is the distinctive claim of liberalism that the individual person is the central unit of society and is therefore prior to and of greater significance than the social structures through which he pursues his ends.

Brandis doesn't frame things the right way. If you want to defend the individual then you have to defend the social entities which he belongs to, which express his social nature, which make his social commitments possible, which help to define him and which bring significance and meaning to his life.

So it's not helpful to think of the individual as being either prior to the social entities or subordinate to them.

If your starting point is the autonomous individual as the central unit of society, then you are not doing the individual any favours as you are taking him as an abstract entity and stripping him of important aspects of who he is and of how he fulfils himself in life.

It is a false and artificial starting point.

Monday, August 12, 2013

We will never get anywhere as nihilists

Those of us who are non-liberals often look down on our liberal opponents as representing a modernist nihilism.

But we need to look at ourselves with a bit of honesty here. If you survey those who have been anti-liberal over the past 150 years, you find a mood of settled despair that has many of the hallmarks of nihilism. One of the signs of this nihilism is a determination to find excuses not to act to shape the future but to find reasons, often very creative reasons, not to do anything but to stand on the sidelines as passive critics. There are many who seem to prefer this role of embittered "down talker" and who react with panic to those who take a more positive view.

In the meantime it is the liberals who have acted with moral conviction and who have set out to shape the future.

Being a Christian does not give immunity from the kind of nihilism I am describing. There are plenty of Christians on the non-liberal right who have fallen into a passive, despairing, merely critical and negative role.

Things will change when we ourselves change. But that means being careful not to talk ourselves into a mood of nihilistic despair. I am going to be much stricter in the comment threads from now on in challenging those who are passive defeatists and who find pleasure in "criticising from the ruins."

It is unmanly to be weak. It is pointless for us to defend sex distinctions, i.e. the reality of the principles of masculinity and femininity, and then to rest content within an unmanly political culture. A man should have the courage of his convictions and be willing to act in a creative and positive way to shape society. A man should have the strength to act with faith in the future.

The left, which does not even believe in masculinity, has been more masculine, i,e., stronger as men, than our side of politics.

I am writing this post now because I can sense the tide turning a little. The lead has been taken in France where there has been a very positive challenge to the liberal elite. But even here in the Anglosphere there seems to be a regrouping taking place amongst the theorists, one that is much more positively oriented.

I am hoping that the reign of nihilism is coming to an end.

How can we encourage a less nihilistic political culture on the non-liberal right?
  •  We should not accept any theories which give the initiative to others. Most conspiracy theories do this. They give all the power to organise society to some other group, with the role of the non-liberal right being to howl about it from the sidelines. Theories which attribute change to large impersonal unstoppable forces do the same thing.
  • There needs to be a level of conviction in what we are doing. A hundred years ago Yeats wrote about the best lacking all conviction and the worst being full of passionate intensity. That was very insightful. Until that turns around we lose.
  • We need to defeat the defeatists. At the moment it seems to be about 2 defeatists for every 1 positivist. That ratio is sufficient to set a negative tone and also needs to be turned around.
  • If we are opposed to nihilism, as we claim to be, then we have to challenge the nihilism within our own ranks. People don't need a group or a movement to be a nihilist, they can do that well enough on their own. It needs to be made clear that there is no room on the non-liberal right for those who counsel despair or passivity. Nor are we here merely to adopt a posture - that of the morally superior intellectual who looks at the rest of the world with tired and curmudgeonly disdain.
We need to take culture seriously. When people come together they create a culture which then has a larger, ongoing influence over the group. The political culture created by the non-liberal right has been a disastrous one that has held us back. A culture can't be changed overnight, but it can be shifted over time.

We do have the power to set the tone within our own political movement. Let's set about using that power wisely to create a much healthier, and more winning, political culture.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Notes on Africa

I've read some newspaper stories on Africa which put that continent in a new light.

Take the example of Angola. There is still considerable poverty in that country. Even so, the economy is growing rapidly (thanks to its oil reserves) to the point that Portugal, the old colonial power, recently asked Angola for economic help. It is now wealthy Angolans who are buying up prime real estate in economically depressed Portugal.

A car dealership in Luanda, Angola

The daughter of the Angolan president has become Africa's first female billionaire.

And it is China which is now the overseas power most active in Angola. China has been described as the new colonial power in Africa, with an estimated 1,000,000 Chinese moving there:
There have also been riots in Zambia, Angola and Congo over the flood of Chinese immigrant workers. The Chinese do not use African labour where possible, saying black Africans are lazy and unskilled.

In Angola, the government has agreed that 70 per cent of tendered public works must go to Chinese firms, most of which do not employ Angolans.

As well as enticing hundreds of thousands to settle in Africa, they have even shipped Chinese prisoners to produce the goods cheaply.

In Kenya, for example, only ten textile factories are still producing, compared with 200 factories five years ago, as China undercuts locals in the production of 'African' souvenirs.

A Chinese overseer in Zambia
The Western countries do still give aid to African nations, but there has been controversy about such aid programmes when African nations are spending billions to develop space programmes:
The row over aid spending intensified yesterday when it emerged Britain is pumping more than a billion pounds into oil-rich Nigeria which has plans to put a man in space.

But taxpayers are also funding aid programmes in South Africa, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya – all of which have their own space agencies. Many are in their early stages, but include ambitious and expensive plans for satellites and even rockets.

Over the five years of this Government, the four nations will receive more than £1.5billion from British taxpayers.

I think it's worth being aware of these trends. There are some who have wanted to make Europeans believe that they are responsible for poverty in Africa. But there is now a very wealthy black elite in these nations: they are the ones who hold the power and the wealth. And if there is a colonial power it is now very clearly the Chinese rather than any Western country.

It's a new dating world for women too

Laura Wood has had several very interesting posts up lately. One of them is titled Going Mad. A young woman who was brought up to be a feminist wrote a letter to Laura Wood expressing her frustration at not being able to find a man who wants to form a family with her:
I am a young woman in my twenties. I have a Ph.D. and was raised to be extremely feminist. To make a long story very short, I am very lonely. I am attractive and pleasant enough and have never had trouble attracting men, but they (or at least the ones I meet) tend to want only one thing. Over time, I have discovered that I have very conservative …"tendencies" and have been lurking at your site and others like it for years, rather wistfully I must say. I long to be a wife and mother and to have a lifelong companion. I love art, music, and literature, and that is why I continued my studies, but while they have been rewarding, they have only made me lonelier in the end, because the students are all very liberal and even the ones who are married are not in it for the long haul. Divorce is always considered an option and many of them engage in behaviors I wouldn’t consider at all appropriate in a marriage, like flirting or even adultery.

In response I feel I have gone somewhat mad. My parents and friends have told me that I should focus only on my career and have treated my desire for marriage as a sickness, as if it should be a cherry on the top of my life instead of my life itself. So I feel that there is something wrong with me. On top of that, I have no idea where to find a community or a dependable, hard-working, masculine man who is looking for the same things I am and wants a marriage for the long haul, a true lifelong commitment.

The letter highlights a problem with the liberal concept of society. I quoted George Brandis's concept of society in a recent post of my own:
To the liberal, the most fundamental characteristic of any society is that it is a coming together of a number of individual persons, each of whom has a unique identity, unique needs and aspirations, the individuality of each of whom is equally important. The pursuit of individual ends, subject to the agreed mutual constraints necessary to social existence, is the dynamic force of human progress.

If it's true that all of our needs and aspirations are unique, then society is going to be thought of as a whole lot of atomised individuals each pursuing their own ends. That works if all you want in life is casual hook-ups with the opposite sex. Atomised individuals can interact with each other on this basis. But what if you want something more than this? What if you want to form a family?

Then things become more difficult. As Laura's reader points out, matters of culture then become important. It starts to matter if there is a culture of stable commitments within a community. It matters too if men are dependable and hard-working or not. And there needs as well to be a place, a community, where those who want to form families can meet together.

So a culture and a community, formed on the basis of shared or common aspirations rather than uniquely individual ones, become important in an area of life that is highly significant to us, namely our opportunity to marry and have children.

In a strongly liberal environment, like that on a campus, the effects of atomisation and the disruption to culture and community are likely to be stronger. So my advice to Laura's PhD reader would be to make a determined effort to meet men outside of the campus scene (even if this is counterintuitive, given the usual human drive toward assortative mating).

It's a pity that the traditionalist movement isn't developed enough yet to offer the kind of community she is looking for. I would point out to readers who are feeling a bit dispirited that if we did grow a bit more, so that we were even a small community, we would become a beacon for those people, like Laura's reader, who are searching for an alternative.

Friday, August 09, 2013

More reasons to oppose the White Ribbon campaign

The White Ribbon campaign wants to oppose domestic violence - an admirable aim. Unfortunately it is run on the basis of a particular ideology, one which makes these claims:
  • that domestic violence is gendered: that it is to be understood as violence committed by men against women
  • that domestic violence is systemic: that it is part of the norms of a traditional society and is to be found amongst all groups of men and is widely prevalent in society
  • that a society can rid itself of violence by dismantling traditional gender roles, traditional social norms and by creating a new equal, non-hierarchical and non-patriarchal society
The campaign has now been picked up by the Melbourne City Council. The Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, has therefore exaggerated the prevalence of domestic violence by making this claim:
We know that one in three women has experienced violence. We also know that it is the single biggest cause of premature death among women aged 15-44.

You would think that he would stop and think for a moment before making such outlandish claims. There are women killed by domestic violence but the numbers involved are very small compared to the deaths of young women from car accidents, suicide and cancer. The Lord Mayor is simply repeating a rogue statistic that is never challenged because it is politically useful to those pushing a particular cause.

The Melbourne City Council has also committed itself to creating:
alternative models of masculinity for men and boys in the media and advertising

Do we really want feminist ideologues to be in charge of creating "alternative models of masculinity"? And do we really want to allow the slander against men to remain unchallenged, the slanderous claim that traditional masculinity is oriented toward violence against women rather than the physical protection of women?

And then there's this:
The We Need to Talk strategy, to go before a council meeting on Tuesday, argues that men's violence against women is an expression of "gendered power, that is, the power that men...have over women and children".

Here we have the assumption that men have power at the expense of women and children - even to the extent of the physical harm of women and children.  If you really believed this to be true, then you would have to set out to bring men down in society. You would see expressions of male authority in society in a negative light, as a source of oppression and injustice.

So even though fighting domestic violence is a worthy cause we should have nothing to do with the White Ribbon campaign. We should instead support those who wish to combat all forms of domestic violence (including violence committed by women) and who are willing to admit that there is a statistical link between such violence and poverty, unemployment, mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Spicer on motherhood

Kate Spicer has written of her regret at not having children. She points out that there are an increasing number of women in her position:
Where a decade ago, just one in nine women remained childless at 45 and were considered rather peculiar at that, now that figure is closer to one in four. For women with a university education, like me, that figure rises to 43 per cent - an extraordinary figure which signifies a seismic social change.

Why does this trend exist? Kate Spicer suggests that there are women who focus their efforts on career and who just assume that family will happen along the way. She herself also seems to fall into the category of women who leave things to their 30s but who can't break out of the pattern of dating unsuitable men:
from the age of 35 my relationships became even more unsuitable: a married man, a boyish party animal, a confirmed bachelor.

She ends her piece by talking about how special the parent/child relationship is. We live in a culture that is focused on the unrelated other and this blinds us perhaps to the significance of the bonds that are closest to us:
I sometimes lie awake full of dread about the time approaching when my parents are no longer around. To give or to receive unconditional love is a deeply rare thing.

As a rule, flawed as all parties may be, the parent-child bond is the commonest and most reliable form of that love. Sitting writing this at my mother's desk, surrounded by my grandmother and great-grandmother's things, I feel acute awareness that as my life enters its final half, it is with a diminishing circle of love.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Brandis: unique identities, individual ends

It's uncommon for members of the right-liberal parties to set out their beliefs in a systematic way. Back in 1984, George Brandis did just this (I am assuming he is now Senator George Brandis of the Australian Liberal Party).

So what did George Brandis set out as his beliefs?

a) The liberal theory of society
To the liberal, the most fundamental characteristic of any society is that it is a coming together of a number of individual persons, each of whom has a unique identity, unique needs and aspirations, the individuality of each of whom is equally important. The pursuit of individual ends, subject to the agreed mutual constraints necessary to social existence, is the dynamic force of human progress.

This view of a society of free and autonomous individuals distinguishes in two essential respects Liberal social theory from the approaches of its most important contemporary rivals, conservatism and socialism.     

Traditionalists strongly disagree with this view of human society. We would not use the word "unique" when describing identities and aspirations. The reality is more complex than this: some aspects of our identity and aspirations are uniquely individual, but others are shared and communal.

Is it really unique for instance that I have a male identity? Is it unique that I identify with my ethnic tradition? Is it unique that I aspired as a young man to find an attractive woman to love and with whom I could form a family?

Some aspects of our identity and aspirations, far from being uniquely individual, are part of an eternal human condition. Does that mean that it is all dull conformity? No, because these identities and aspirations are refracted differently within each human personality.

It is important to get this right, because if you take the liberal view that there are only uniquely individual identities and aspirations, then you end up with the liberal idea of society as being a whole lot of atomised individuals each pursuing ends that can only possibly be known to them.

What you lose is a sense of the larger social entities which help form individual identity, to which individuals feel a sense of belonging and attachment, and which provide the social context (the framework) for the lives of individuals (i.e. for expressing our nature as men and women).

It is terribly mistaken, in the traditionalist view, to base a theory of society on "the pursuit of individual ends." Let's say that we have a masculine identity and it is a part of this identity to play an effective role as a husband and father and also to uphold the larger communal tradition we belong to. Our "individual ends" cannot then be separated from a number of "social ends" relating to family and community. Our social ends and our individual ends blend together.

That possibly helps to explain why it doesn't feel free to be limited to individual ends. If we are limited in this way, we can't fully pursue some of the more significant ends in life, so part of our personality feels bottled up or stifled.

There's much more to comment on in George Brandis's essay, but I don't like to make these more theoretical posts too long, so I'll resume discussion in a future post.

Monday, August 05, 2013

A terrific quote

The Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre very elegantly and concisely describes what is wrong with liberalism in this brief passage:
Liberalism in the name of freedom imposes a certain kind of unacknowledged domination, and one which in the long run tends to dissolve traditional human ties and to impoverish social and cultural relationships. Liberalism, while imposing through state power regimes that declare everyone free to pursue whatever they take to be their own good, deprives most people of the possibility of understanding their lives as a quest for the discovery and achievement of the good, especially by the way in which it attempts to discredit those traditional forms of human community within which this project has to be embodied.


Arthur Rackham was a well-known English illustrator of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Below is his picture Undine (a water sprite):

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Can't we beat this?

Lauren Sandler is an American woman who advocates that women should have no more than one child. She does so on the basis that more than one child hampers a woman's autonomy and so it is liberating for women to have just the one.

Here is a sample of her writing:
What if, for those who didn’t feel otherwise compelled to have more kids, they decided instead to opt for greater pleasure and autonomy, for other opportunities for personal advancement and self-fulfilment?

...To be sure, low fertility accompanies a weak economy without fail. But to blame the markets for what happens in our bedrooms misses a radical reshaping of our worldview. It’s not just the economy, it’s liberation. The pursuit of happiness has emerged as our new national ideology, trumping the age-old belief that parental duty is the very definition, of adulthood.  Some think it’s the height of selfishness; I say it’s progress.

...Over the past century, adulthood has come to promise more than just duty, but pleasure...we envision a liberated existence, one of satisfaction and fulfilment, a life built upon intentionality and individualism rather than obligation and role-filling. This liberated adulthood exists at odds with parenting...Instead of making a choice to enlarge our families based on stereotypes or cultural pressure, we can instead make that most profound choice our most purely independent one. It might even feel like something people rarely associate with parenting: it might feel like freedom.

That is exactly the kind of outlook you'd expect to emerge from within an advanced liberalism. If the aim is to maximise your individual autonomy, then you're going to have a problem when it comes to family life. Family life makes demands on us. It requires stable commitments that restrict what we might choose to do at any particular time. Family life, in other words, impedes our autonomy.

So what do liberals do? They try to recast the family to make it fit in better with autonomy. They can do this in a variety of ways. A commitment to family life can be delayed. Divorce can be made easier. There might be calls for the having of children to be "fitted around" a woman's life rather than be a core aspect of it. Lauren Sandler's solution is to have the absolute minimum number of children.

(A more radical solution would be to have no children at all; and the most radical solution is to simply live alone.)

The important thing to recognise is that within the framework of liberalism it doesn't make sense to commit to large families.

A traditionalist movement would therefore have a very considerable demographic advantage. If we were able to maintain a more traditional culture of family life, we would almost certainly have a much higher fertility rate than the surrounding liberal culture.

(Of course, that would only be an advantage if we were able to educate our children along traditionalist lines rather than having them become the next generation of liberals.)

Lauren Sandler's views are more evidence of what a dead-end road liberalism is for the society which adopts it. If we can operate within a different framework we will have a strength that liberalism lacks.

Friday, August 02, 2013

It is now a "human right" in Australia for women to be paid more than men

I suppose this was inevitable, given the way that liberalism works, but it still makes me angry.

An Australian company has decided to pay its female employees a higher rate of superannuation than its male employees and this has been approved by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

So the principle of "equal pay for equal work" is now officially dead in Australia. That principle was never the real goal anyway. What liberalism wants is for sex distinctions not to matter. Therefore, if women end up getting less money because they spend less time at work, the liberal mind concludes that women must get paid more to make up the difference.

A saner society would do whatever it could to promote men's efforts to be providers for their families, rather than cutting away at the role. That's one way in which this measure won't help women in the long run. It will only further diminish the motivation of men to be breadwinners.

A saner society would also consider people as they really are - as members of families rather than as atomised individuals. If a woman marries and has children and decides to cut back her work hours, whilst her husband increases his, then it is true that the husband will retire with more superannuation. Does this leave the woman in the lurch? No, because the husband's superannuation is not to support himself alone but will be combined with that of his wife to form a joint retirement income.

The problem with artificially bolstering a woman's superannuation is that it means that men offer less in comparison through their own efforts at work. The social role of men within a marriage is then artificially impeded - the very opposite of what should be aimed at.

I'm afraid we are going to see more of this kind of thing. I would encourage young men not to let this demoralise them. It is still important to put yourself in a good position to support a family through your work.

There is a much better response than passively yielding. And that is to really stick it up the noses of liberals by "rewinding the tape" when it comes to family roles. Be like a patriarch of old. Outcompete women at work regardless of attempts to advantage women (you'll almost certainly win out in the long run). Build good relationships with your children and instil in them traditional values. Be a source of moral instruction and worldly wisdom. Model masculinity for your sons and a healthy marital relationship for your children. Lead your children to the qualities and characteristics that will help them marry successfully. Be a source of strength for your wife.

And have the strength to take responsibility not only for yourself and your own family but for the larger community and your own historic tradition. Don't leave society to the ideologues and the magnates. Work together with other responsible men to help actively shape the society you inhabit, including its values and principles.

Take on liberalism by becoming something superior to it in your own life. People should come to think of traditional men as being self-confident, strong and unyielding.